You know how sometimes no expectations lead to something wonderful? That was the case with my visit to the capital of Cambodia: Phnom Penh! In this post I’m going to show you the most beautiful parts of this buzzing city that started my love affair for the wonderful country that is Cambodia!
After a pretty funny bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh (read more about it here), I arrived in Phnom Penh in the late afternoon. I shared a tuk tuk with another tourist I met at the bus stop to my hostel. Now the first thing that I found quite interesting when I got there was that all streets don’t have names but they are numbered. My hostel was on street number 322. Although it’s a bit odd, it makes navigating around very simple!
My hostel was located in a very safe neighbourhood that was the most European I’ve seen in all of Southeast Asia. There were tons of trendy bars, hostels and the huge Aeon shopping mall that has a great food court and – hold your breath – Sushi! Food wise, I wasn’t that impressed with Cambodia, I found that there is a lot of Western food which can be nice after eating Asian food for a few months!
Alright, let’s get started with my favourite sights and things to do in Phnom Penh, shall we?
Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda
Before you visit, make sure you check the opening times, they are closed for almost 3 hours over lunchtime. Also, make sure you dress appropriately: long trousers and cover your shoulders. A scarf is always handy for those purposes! As there were three of us visiting together, we decided to get a guide which proved to be a fab idea since he gave us a very interesting, detailed tour of the grounds.
The grounds are separated by walls into four main areas: in the south, there is the Silver Pagoda, on the north side you’ll find the Khemarin Palace and the main square is home to the Throne Hall. The west side contains the Inner Court which is the private residence of the current King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni.
The buildings of the palace were built gradually over time, and some were dismantled and rebuilt as late as the 1960s. But some old buildings dates back to the 19th century. One of my favourite buildings was the Moonlight Pavilion (pictured above) which serves as a dancing hall.
Near the Silver Pagoda, you’ll also find a gorgeous temple and numerous stunning stupas. The gardens are worth taking a slow stroll through, admiring the tropical flowers and plants that are beautifully arranged and kept immaculately.
National Museum of Cambodia
This is a great addition to your visit to Angkor Wat, either before or after. Not only is the building an incredible piece of architecture, it’s also Cambodia’s largest museum of cultural history and the country’s leading historical and archaeological museum.
The museum is home to a vast collection of Khmer Art. Some of it dates to prehistoric times to periods even before that. There are also pieces of art that have been found in the archeological excavations of the Angkor Wat temples.
We spent quite a lot of time in this museum and found it to be a good preparation for a visit to the Angkor Wat temples. It’s a very informative museum where you’ll learn about the ancient history and the Khmer empire.
Unexpectedly, Phnom Penh boasts of street art! If you pay attention, you’ll find beautiful graffitis and wall art all around the city!
One of my favourite pieces was the graffiti below picturing a Cambodian girl praying with traditional head jewellery and modern clothing. It’s located on the left side of the German Cambodian Cultural Center.
Most of the street art is hidden away in tiny alleyways, so take a peak off the big roads and wander through the tiny streets that connect the big boulevards! Apart from the street art, it’s also beautiful because some alleyways are overgrown with flowers which gives it a mesmerizing atmosphere! Below are a few more street art pictures I took in the streets of Phnom Penh!
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